Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2; 10-11; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8; 19-28
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!
Because of these first words of today’s Mass every year, today is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”. We have come more than half way through Advent and we are starting to get close to the Lord’s coming at Christmas, ten days away. The desire to express our joy at his nearness overtakes this Mass.
This might be a bit of a problem for some people. What if I don’t have anything to feel joyful about? What if a tragedy has struck my life, or a severe depression is setting in? What if I’m just in a bad mood? Rejoice in the Lord? Maybe, “complain to the Lord” would be more like how I am feeling. But the word of Scripture stands to challenge us. How will I deal with this?
For it is important for me to deal with something like this. Just to write it off as unimportant only means that I stay stuck where I’m at. To just forget about it means I cheat myself of the precious opportunity to grow more deeply in my relationship with God. As if I’m saying to myself that God is not important enough for me to try and make an effort to understand what he means. We know all too well, God does not think as poor mortals think.
The heart of the question here is what I’m called to rejoice about. If I am being asked to rejoice in how great things are here on earth, forget it. Things here on earth are not so great. If I am being called to rejoice in how I feel about my life, maybe that’s not any better. Who is satisfied for long with his or her circumstances in life? Life is hard and full of trials. So what am I supposed to rejoicing about? Saint Paul told the Philippians, Rejoice in the Lord always. Mary, on greeting her cousin Elizabeth sang, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Saint Paul in the second reading today told the Thessalonians simply, Rejoice always…in all circumstances give thanks. Finally, a personal note to our brothers for the Invitatory Psalm we pray each Sunday morning at the beginning of Vigils, Come, ring out your joy to the Lord; hail the rock who saves us.
It seems that we are to rejoice in the Lord, rejoicing always in God our Savior. I am not being asked by God to rejoice in the world or rejoice in my own self or in any other created thing, but only to rejoice in the Lord God my Savior. This is really an important thing to grasp. Whatever my personal circumstances in life may be, however weighed down or oppressive the situation is, I must always lay claim in Christ to the joy of salvation, to the sure hope of God my Savior, whatever may befall me here and now.
The joy of salvation is not about what is going on here and now. The joy of salvation is my unfailing hope that God is faithful and that he will not fail his promise of salvation for all who seek and call upon him. This is the joy of salvation which no one can take from us. This is that peace that the world cannot give us, Christ’s gift of peace. In this gift of God every believer must always rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord. Again I say, rejoice. The Lord is near.